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Under Her Watchful Eye

A Tuscan Madonnella

This new 5″ x 5″ painting contains some of my favourite things to paint – stone walls, rustic doors, shutters, flower pots and boxes, and my new favourite thing, the Madonnella.

What’s a Madonnella? It’s the little religious shrine of the Virgin Mary that can be found on walls and street corners all over Italy. I had to look up the proper name for them and then became curious about their history and meaning. Obviously they were meant to bless the souls of a dwelling’s inhabitants, but they also were erected on very narrow dark streets prone to criminal activity. It was believed that the Madonna’s watchful presence would make the quasi-God-fearing criminal think hard about doing something sinful. And the very faithful believed her presence blessed a street with other protective powers of a miraculous nature, like some kind of celestial Neighbourhood Watch.

Thousands of these Madonnelle were erected in the 1700’s and it is rare to see one today in bad condition. They are still lovingly cared for and are frequently adorned with offerings of candles, personal objects or flowers, like this one in Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany.

Let it be known, you who are plotting dastardly deeds out there, Italy’s Madonnelle are perpetually on watch for your souls!

5″ x 5″ ink and watercolour

Note: In December 2021, I painted another 5″ x 5″, “The Textures of Tuscany”, that also contains a Madonnella. A few weeks ago, I exhibited these 2 pieces together and loved the effect. I do love a series!

At the writing of this blog, both paintings are still available in my online shop.

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